The world of Gaia is in turmoil. Humans, goblins, and dwarves try to live their lives as best they can under the rule of the sovereigns—the strange and powerful race whose empire stretches to all corners of the known world—but order and stability seem to be fading. The quality of life has lessened, the strength and control of the Sovereign Empire has weakened, and a large movement of rebels, though many would call them terrorists, known as the Lost Seekers, are causing waves throughout the lands.
Nowhere are these changes felt more than the Isles, a small human province of islands, where sixteen-year-old Carver lives with his family and best friend, Helena, in the remote village of Verrel. During a routine trip to the provincial capital of Caswen, Carver and Helena suddenly find themselves in the middle of a violent conflict between the powers of the world, and soon after find themselves being hunted for reasons they do not understand.
Now pulled into events they never dreamed of experiencing, Carver and Helena, along with some close companions, are forced to fight for their lives during a journey of hardships. Monstrous beasts, hostile factions, and even nature itself plague their quest to find safety and seek answers, and nothing is gained without a struggle. However, their continued survival may be out of their control as the powers of the world vie for dominance against one another . . . by any means necessary.
The Bindings of Woe is the initial novel in the Chain of Worlds series, and the debut novel by Connor Jackson. It could be classified as classic fantasy, as I found so many well-executed resemblances to some of the genre tropes, but with different twists.
We are introduced to the world of Gaia, where goblins, dwarfs, and humans live together, being under the control of the sovereigns, a magic race that has conquered most of the lands due to their military superiority and the use of certain magic tactics. And their control has shaped the lands they reign over, and how the technology has advanced/progressed there.
We will follow the story of Carver and Helena, two teenagers from Verrel, a remote village in the Isles, a small province under the sovereign’s control. After a trip to the province capital of Caswen, they get involved in a conflict between the Lone Seekers (a sort of terrorist group, we could say) and the sovereigns, involving some forces that are totally over them, simple people involved.
Despite the lack of involvement of the village in that kind of incident, Aellia, governor of the province decrees the total destruction of Verrel, which implied a really difficult moment for Carver and Helena, but still they manage to escape with the company of Sebastian and Nina, and also with the help of Rook, despite they don’t really like him.
Here we can see a good portrait of how a group reacts in an extreme situation, which will also have to fight more threats until reaching a «safe» place. Helena takes a brighter spotlight from this moment onwards, and personally, I kinda prefer the sections written taking Helena as the main character instead of Carver, as I feel she is more vivid, more human, and particularly, less impulsive. We are also introduced to the main antagonist, Governor Aellia. As she’s in a power position, but given by the sovereigns, she is forced to keep a difficult balance between her own intentions, controlling the terrorism from the Lost Seekers, and also keeping her own life.
The friction between races is something that is inherited from the convivence, as goblins, dwarfs, and humans had different customs, which I think is well reflected in the story. Despite a relative harmony between them, there’s still certain racism; especially against sovereigns, which are also influencing and trying to keep the rest of the races in an inferior development state.
The worldbuilding is probably my favourite part, as we slowly discover how Gaia evolved through time, how the different races get mixed, and the past of the Terran race. Personally, I would have liked a little bit more magical elements, as outside of sovereign’s magic and healing potions (which could be described more precisely as herbal tinctures), there aren’t any more supernatural elements. Spreading world information into different conversations and small snippets helps to not make the pace too slow.
In summary, I find The Bindings of Woe a solid debut from Connor Jackson, and personally, I would recommend it to classical fantasy fans, and people who like deep worldbuilding. Can’t wait to see the next book in the Chain of Worlds series.
Connor Jackson is an avid fan of video games and fantasy/sci-fi stories. Inspired by such tales, and tired of encountering stories that import real-world politics and agendas into their narratives and development, he finally decided to write a fantasy story of his own in the hopes of telling a captivating tale that anyone, from any group or walk of life, can enjoy. Connor lives in British Columbia, Canada, with his wife.